The multiple emotions of fibromyalgia

“Nothing vivifies, and nothing kills, like emotions”, Joseph Roux

It’s almost the end of December already and I missed writing a blog in November. Seems I was trying to recover from the many crises (or at least perceived crises) in my life. The physiotherapist (Nick) said my nervous system was “completely exhausted” and to rest. For the past few weeks things have finally quieted down and I am having Feldenkrais movement treatments/activities (I am somewhat certain that Tai Chi would be equally as effective, or any kind of movement) to help revitalize me somewhat. The fatigue is slowly dissipating and with it some of the pain from all the hyperactivity and intense stressful emotions in my life. I am back on my recumbent bike a couple of times a week for about 20 minutes a day now (again!).

As I write this I watch little light snow flakes outside; there’s a fire in the fireplace; I have just spent 20 minutes meditating and I am at peace with my heating pad on my shoulders and hot tea to comfort me.  The winter skylight is incredible at dusk. Now that we have had Solstice the days will be getting longer.picture of Rob's flowers and snow from our back yard 002 If only there were more days like this, but of course, crises happen…stuff happens. I can’t stop the world. I am though working on focused practices such as mild exercise and meditation which is what my emotional roller coaster craves and my brain ( that darn amygdala!) has a difficult time understanding. My brain wants to go that well worn path to emotional chaos instead of the new calming pathways I am trying to cultivate. The stresses that many of us experience during the festive season create in us emotions that can make us sick, or conversely could  make us well.

As I ponder emotional characteristics, it seems to me that there is not an infinite amount of  human emotions. Feeling sad, happy, angry, fearful, stressed, anxious,  joyful…while the list seems endless I can see that many overlap and the one I do best is fear. It feeds on anxiety and brings along with it depression and anger. I know that pathway well. The brain then takes on the powerful emotion and my pain increases. I have often written about the emotion of empathy and that persons with fibromyalgia have too much of it, taking on the emotions of others in an unhealthy way. Now I suggest we try to replace empathy with compassion for others  and ourselves while maintaining boundaries with our feelings/emotions that make us the overly sensitive persons that we are.

What I do well is fret for myself and others. What a small word but one that can keep on stirring up emotions that cause chaos to my nervous sytem. My new year’s resolution is to try to chose a new direction when I find myself fretting. I don’t think the brain is as much plastic (some plastic is hard, not soft) as it is elastic…neuroelasticity…so why not stretch it to a happy new place, rather than the old worn one? Here’s to happier/healthier emotions in the new year.

Best wishes to all those who have suffered from the demon that wants to control us. Let us try smiling and laughing at it since it is what it is, but our emotional capacity to change from fear to joy is more powerful than fibromyalgia. Laughter is the best medicine after all.

2 comments

  1. Maryellen Bradley-Gilbert says:

    Hello Barbara,

    Your thoughts are mine in so many ways. They lead me to wonder just how your are, almost two years after you posted this beautifully poignant passage. I do hope you’re well and able to read this response.

    I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia since my late 20s – early 30s. I am now 54 (a youthful old person, as you described in another blog). Depression and body/eating issues in my 20s brought me to a “Conscious Eating” approach for women with over-eating issues (I was bulimic at the time). The gift of those trying years was two-fold: I read Fat is a Feminist Issue; I began a mindfulness meditation practice that has been a touchstone throughout the past going-on-30 years of my life.

    I was fortunate enough to live in Cambridge, Mass., and attend the Insight Meditation Center there. Jon Kabat-Zin gave talks there on occasion and I was drawn to his work through, his book, Wherever You Go There You Are. I was in a serious car accident that caused injury to my cervical spine and pain that I’d never thought possible for a 27-old-woman. I believe the accident was a contributing factor to later development of) fybromyalgia (even spell check doesn’t accept it as a legitimate word!), along with being a “highly sensitive” person, one with emotional antennae the size of telephone poles, and family history of chronic pain (my mom suffered from Polymyalgia Rhuematica and eventually died of Myesthenia Gravis).

    It’s difficult not to look at life “through a glass darkly,” when one faces su difficult life experiences. Some days there is a thick shadow looming over my “youthfully-old mind.” The shadow is cast from the image of my mother suffering valiantly, from the comfort of her recliner, for so many years. Life may very well be suffering. And yet the Buddha promised that there is an end to suffering. The practice of returning to the present moment (again and again), with non-judgmental awareness has been the most potent antidote to anxiety, depression, pain – fear you name it – that I have encountered. In this moment, I am lying on the couch in the company of my dear old (10) Springer Spaniel, Morgan and her younger but equally pleased to curl up on the couch sister, Millie. There’s nothing much lovelier than the devotion of an old dog and the warmth of a pellet stove on a chilly New England eve. Unless it’s all those things, plus having come upon a kindred spirit while surfing the net.

    What about you? How are you in this moment?

    With much Metta,
    Maryellen

  2. Barbara Keddy
    Barbara Keddy says:

    Dear Maryellen:
    Your comments are always welcome, insightful, thoughtful and provocative.
    It is such a pleasure to read your lovely prose. How am I now, you ask?
    Busy, happy, sad (yesterday’s massacre making everyone across the world so sad),
    aging and all that brings, caring for my 95 year old mother who is in a nursing home,
    seeing the difficulties with adult children, and the the chaos of the world!
    In other words…life!Trying to live in the moment and that takes so much discipline.
    This is a melancholy time of year, time for introspection.
    All the best to you in 2013.
    Kind regards,
    Barbara

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